Day 20: Ferrara – Modena

Distance: 73.69 km

Time: 3 hours 17 minutes

Average speed: 22.5 kph

Cumulative distance: 1062.57 km

Cumulative time: 49 hours 34 minutes

Phrase of the day: ‘strada dissestata‘ (strah-da dees-ess-taat-a) – rough road

It was hot last night – we sat out in the courtyard after dinner, making plans for the next few days. While the Stoker was writing yesterday’s blog entry, the Captain was trying to find accommodation in Bologna, and finding it difficult. We wanted to have a rest day there, but finding an hotel was a trial, and he found himself becoming unusually grumpy!

After a glass of wine or two, he worked out the source of this – essentially we had planned a succession of cities for our next few days – Ferrara, Modena, Bologna, Forlì. Though these are all magnificent places, cycling in cities is not great fun. Let’s take Ferrara as an example. It calls itself the city of cycling and, sure enough, there are cycle lanes everywhere. However, they are often rutted, potholed and narrow. The odd pothole may not be a problem on a mountain-bike, but on a heavily laden tandem each one is a serious hazard. If we hit one I wince at the potential damage to our spokes. What’s more, the fact that there are cycle lanes everywhere means that drivers become irritated if you don’t use them, just as they do in the U.K. Okay, well try it for yourself, first!

Wine always solves everything, though. We decided, con riluttanza, to bypass Bologna. We’ll save it for another trip, when we’re not on the tandem, and perhaps combine it with visits to Parma and Reggio Emilia, which were also on our itinerary before we decided to head up to Sirmione instead.

Back to today! Much renewed by a good night’s sleep we set off through the centro storico di Ferrara, using cycle lanes wherever possible (😉). Today being Sunday, the roads were very quiet, and we soon found ourselves on peaceful rural roads, surrounded by huge tomato fields.

It’s obviously some sort of tradition here, after church on a Sunday, to go to a bar and drink an Aperol Spritz. We noticed this phenomenon last Sunday, and today was no exception – all the roadside bars were full of smartly dressed Italians quaffing orange-coloured drinks. The unmistakable smell of barbecue fuel, too, filled the senses!

We really enjoyed our rural cycling – there were a few sections where we saw the dreaded road sign saying Strada dissestata. This indicates a section of rough road, and they’re not usually joking:

With the traffic being so light, though, we could weave around obstacles more easily. Before we knew it, we’d achieved two-thirds of our day’s kilometrage, so we stopped for lunch in the town of Camposanto. We tried three different bars before we found one serving food – perhaps it’s Aperol Spritz or nothing on a Sunday. Still, the third one was excellent, and very friendly.

After lunch we could just make out the Apennines in the distance. This was a reminder that our days of cycling in the flat Po valley are numbered!

We have two more days in the valley, before we must cross the Apennines into Tuscany. Thankfully our remaining journey into Modena was flat and easy, and marked by the presence of Lambrusco vines on either side of the road. Incidentally, if you think Lambrusco is just the cheap and nasty red fizz stocked by our supermarkets in the 1980s, then we suggest you try the quality version!

To Modena, then, where we soon found Santino, our B&B host, who showed us into his lovely apartment, only a few steps from the Duomo. He and the Captain then walked through central Modena with the tandem, in order to store it securely overnight in a second apartment. In the main piazza a classic car rally was underway – there must have been at least two dozen Ferraris and Lamborghinis there!

Today we completed our first thousand kilometres – we only need to do that two-and-a-half more times and our journey will be complete! We have a long day tomorrow, as a consequence of our decision to bypass Bologna. Our destination is the hillside town of Castel San Pietro Terme, where we’ve booked a hotel with a pool for our next rest day.

Here’s today’s track.